Inclusive design encourages proactive behaviour and empowers people to take decisions concerning their own life, take control of their environment, and live freely, independently, and with dignity.
There are currently estimated to be more than 50 million people worldwide living with dementia, which is set to rise to 152 million by 2050. Early symptoms of dementia can include memory loss, difficulty performing familiar tasks, problems with language and changes in personality. Traditionally, the unsettling nature of the condition and the intensive care required, many older people end up in aged care facilities.
In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the need and effectiveness of moving away from the focus on the medical aspects of dementia, and the institutional approach to treatment, to a more socially inclusive and rights-based model. This means new housing models and the crucial role of design to support people to reach their full potential as human beings.
Designing for people living with dementia does not have an extensive knowledge base. Yet, there is a pressing economic, health, and social imperative for translating the existing knowledge into practice. By providing appropriate housing options in the community, in combination with home and social care, people living with dementia can be supported to age in place and avoid or defer a move into residential care. This is also central to realising the rights of people living with dementia. Over the past 20 years, Life3A (as Marchese Partners) has been dedicated to improving later living environments through evidence-based design globally.
Design can play a key role in embracing the diverse characteristics of people with dementia – neurological, psychological, cognitive, behavioural, social and cultural. Inclusive design encourages a focus on maximising abilities, know-how, and aptitudes for skill development rather than compensating for disabilities. International dementia care experts have developed a set of principles for designs that maximise human rights:
- Unobtrusively reduce risks
- Provide a human scale
- Allow people to see and be seen
- Reduce unhelpful stimulation
- Optimise helpful stimulation
- Support movement and engagement
- Create a familiar place
- Provide opportunities to be alone or with others
- Link to the community
- Design in response to vision for way of life
Life3A has consistently recognised the need for its designers to embed themselves in the context of the person living with dementia. Inclusive design encourages proactive behaviour and empowers people to take decisions concerning their own life, take control of their environment, and live freely, independently, and with dignity. Over the past 20 years, Life3A has developed a set of person-centred design principles that mirror those for people living with dementia (developed by Professor Richard Fleming).
The World Alzheimer Report 2020, Design, Dignity, Dementia: Dementia-related design and the built environment, is a global perspective of dementia-related design that benchmarks and highlights innovative solutions. It illustrates the worldwide efforts to design buildings that meet the needs and aspirations of people living with dementia and those who care for them. The report showcases 84 case studies from 27 countries. Life3A contributed three case studies for projects that showcase innovation and best practice
Gaynes Park Manor, Adelaide, Australia
Gaynes Park Manor was designed as a residential care centre for people living with dementia. It accommodates 96 residents, the majority of whom have dementia. Its design fulfils the vision: Live Every Day – Designing to maximise each resident’s opportunity to live their best life each day through greater personal choice, freedom, flexibility and support.
Glengara Care, Central Coast NSW, Australia
Glengara Care opened in 2020 and sits within Glengara’s Retirement Village and existing facilities. It has been designed as a residential care centre for people living with dementia and accommodates 50–99 residents, some of whom have dementia. It has achieved the vision of a well-designed and considered space for residents to call home. It allows residents to be the focus and for the space around them to enhance their experience.
Melaleuca Wing – Memory Support Unit, Gold Coast, Australia
The Melaleuca Wing – Memory Support Unit opened in 2018. It was specifically designed as and is only used as a residential care centre for people living with dementia. The centre accommodates 36 residents within a larger campus of 100–149 residents. The design of these plays a vital role in ensuring that the quality of life for people with dementia living in residential facilities is maximised. This reduces the stress and anxiety felt by families and carers when facing difficult residential placement decisions.